‘Godfather of Heroin’ dies in Myanmar at 80

AP, YANGON, Myanmar

Tue, Jul 09, 2013 - Page 6

A man dubbed the “Godfather of Heroin” by the US government and slapped with financial sanctions for allegedly helping prop up Myanmar’s brutal former military junta through illegal business dealings died over the weekend. Lo Hsing Han (羅興漢) was 80 years old.

His body lay in a glass coffin in the family home for a private ceremony yesterday, a long line of relatives, senior government officials and business leaders turning out to pay their final respects, one of the attendees said.

He spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect to the family.

For decades, Lo was considered one of the world’s biggest traffickers of heroin.

In the 1990s, he and his son Stephen Law founded the conglomerate Asia World, allegedly as a front for their ongoing dealings in the drug trade, said Bertil Lintner, author of The Golden Triangle Opium Trade: An Overview.

They quickly became two of Myanmar’s most powerful business tycoons, winning contracts from the junta to run ports, build highways and oversee airport operations.

The US Department of Treasury, dubbing Lo the “Godfather of Heroin,” put both father and son on the financial sanctions list in 2008.

Lo first got involved in the drug trade in the 1960s.

In exchange for heading a local militia set up by then-dictator Ne Win to help fight local communists in the region of Kokang, he was granted the right to traffic opium and heroin, Lintner said.

Thai police arrested Lo in northern Thailand in 1973. He was handed over to the Burmese government.

His initial sentence of death was commuted to life in prison, not for drug trafficking, but treason.

This stemmed from a brief stint with the insurgent Shan State Army, Lintner said.

In 1980, he was released as part of a general amnesty.

An obituary announcement submitted by the family in the Burmese-language Myanma Ahlin daily yesterday said that his funeral would be held on Wednesday next week.

He is survived by a wife, four sons, four daughters and 16 grandchildren.